Editor’s Notebook: Skye/ Band Season/ Cowal/ Invercharron/ Jock’s Book/ SPA

Someone on social media was asking about this picture. For those who don’t know, it is of the MacCrimmon Cairn at Borreraig on Skye. The piper is John MacFadyen and the listener Seton Gordon the writer, naturalist and piping judge.

The occasion, early 1970s, would be the ‘penny and a piobaireachd’ ceremony which was organised annually (before my time) by the College of Piping. In return for the money and the tune the College was given ownership of the historic site for a year.

It is redolent of the great days of Skye piping with the Silver Chanter at Dunvegan the thriving showpiece and healthy entries at Portree. There were four in the Col. Jock Clasp this year. Worrying. Incidentally, whenever he judged Seton became Satan.


I say again: the pipe band season ends too soon. There is still much of the summer left yet no contest with any great import happens anywhere in Scotland. Yes there are ‘minor’ events but these are very poorly supported even when, as at Pitlochry, they are well organised with good prizes. All the big bands have packed up and gone home, already thinking about 2020.

Shotts march on at the British back in May at the first major of the season, the British at Paisley

If Cowal (this Saturday) were to become the West of Scotland Branch Championships open to all with the Champion of Champions trophies presented there, that would lengthen things a bit. The problem is I don’t think Cowal are sufficiently interested in pipe bands. That’s why they lost their championship status in the first place. Pity. All those historic trophies now devoid of meaning.


Friday’s Cowal senior solos have been cancelled too. The clash with the Northern Meeting making this inevitable. Should be back next year, and the junior and local contests do go ahead as normal. Les Hutt in Inverness tells me that Invercharron Games have also been cancelled. He writes: ‘The last of the Scottish games at Invercharron has been cancelled. Some good times playing there in the past although my last trip was less memorable when I got out of the car and it was 8 degs.!’



George Barlow in Ontario: ‘Robert, Last month a reader wrote to you about a book judging pipe bands and you referred him to your book entitled ‘The Judge’s Companion’. I think the reader’s first name was Mark. If he is still interested in that book it can be found at Scott’s Highland store.’
Thanks George; nice to know there are some copies about.


From Tom Peterkin’s review in the Press & Journal newspaper of Jock Duncan’s book ‘Jock’s Jocks’:

The publisher’s blurb reads: ‘Between the 1930s and 1980s, folk singer Jock Duncan interviewed around 60 veterans of the First World War, mainly in his native North East of Scotland. He then spent many years transcribing his interviews in the rich variations of Scots in which they were spoken. The result, published here, is a unique and illuminating collection of first hand witness testimony to the horror, and humour, of the Great War.

‘A one-act musical play, of the same name, by Gary West and based on the exact words of these soldiers, has been performed in Blair Atholl and was part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival in Edinburgh in 2018.

Jock Duncan is an entertainer and singer, particularly of North East of Scotland traditional ballads.’
He is also the father of the late Gordon Duncan and the senior solo piping adjudicator Ian. Buy the book here.


Tom Johnstone, President of the Scottish Pipers’ Association: Entries for the Vets contest on Friday, September 6, are very low indeed so we need more of the elder pipers to come forward and give it a go. Entrants to be 60 or over and have to play a slow air and a march of their own choice. There is also a prize for the best slow air and the best competitor over 80. We would encourage all our older members to please participate.

Saturday 7th September sees or Juvenile contest and the third heat of the Knockout featuring Steven Leask and Sarah Muir in the evening. Entry forms here.


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1 thought on “Editor’s Notebook: Skye/ Band Season/ Cowal/ Invercharron/ Jock’s Book/ SPA

  1. Cowal – how have the mighty fallen? I remember the glory days at Cowal, with bands choosing to come here rather than the Worlds. Going to Cowal was the highlight of the year for much of SW Scotland, with close to 100,000 spectators in 1 day. I remember our Pipe Band winning Grade 2 and our P/S Jim Henderson winning the Burgh Cup the same day. What an end to the day, marching down the road. It is a shame that the Cowal Committee and the RSPBA could not have come to some mutually advantageous arrangement.

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